Proposed new rules would affect lights on wind towers

Dec 1, 2017

New rules proposed by the North Dakota Public Service Commission would change the required lighting on wind towers.

The lights are required for aircraft safety.

Many of the older wind farms use blinking red lights. Some people have complained that those lights remain on even when there are no airplanes in the area. But PSC Chairman Randy Christmann said there are newer technologies for those lighting systems. 

One is “aircraft detection lighting.”

"It has a radar that shuts most or all of the lights off unless there's an aircraft within a certain distance," Christmann said.

Another possibility is a “light intensity dimming solution.”

"The lights would flash as they always have," Christmann said. "But on clear nights, they wouldn't need to be so bright  that you would see them from many miles away. They can be dimmed, so that aircraft can see them for whatever distance the FAA requires."

Christmann said the rule is open-ended, in case even newer technologies are developed.

Commissioner Julie Fedorchak said already, NextEra Energy is building its Oliver Three and Brady One and Two wind farms, using the “advanced detection” system.

"North Dakotans will really notice that, especially during the winter, when kit's dark at 5 and not light again until 8 in the morning," Fedorchak said.

Wind farms that were built before June of 2016 will have until 2021 to make changes to their lighting systems. Those farms approved after June of 2016 will have until the end of 2019 to install the new technology.

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